The trouble with Jerry
He’s dead, but our Falwellian nightmare isn’t
Have you heard what Jerry Falwell said when he landed in hell and met Ol’ Scratch?
“Oh, my God!”
I like that one. I also like the Photoshopped image of Tinky-Winky wearing widow’s weeds in mourning, but still carrying his red purse. It’s on my desktop. And an animation I saw online that had all four Teletubbies delightedly cooing and dancing on a certain Virginia preacher’s grave was a real hoot.
No, I have no decorum whatsoever. Perhaps I’m unnecessarily cruel. And it may be just a round of justification, but, frankly, I don’t think the Rev. Falwell would have wasted any tears at my funeral, either. After all, he made no secret of his belief that I’m in the fast lane on the highway to hell.
What amazes me is the number of people who are surprised at my attitude. Even worse are those who try to tell me not to feel that way. A progressive political bulletin board I frequent includes lengthy threads admonishing members to stop saying bad things about ol’ Jer. Have some dignity, be civil, be better than “they” are, blah-blah-blah.
Oh, you mean I should act Christian?
Have you heard the one about the 17-year-old boy who told his Bible-believing father he was gay?
Dad took him into the garage, loaded a shotgun and said, “I’m taking your mother into town for ice cream. We’ll be back in an hour. You know what to do.”
That was my friend Doug. He did know what to do: He packed a few things and left home, never to return. At least, not yet.
Falwell died just a few days after the U.S. House passed a bill adding sexual orientation to the list of criteria for determining hate-crime enhancement in federal-crime sentencing. The religious right is screaming bloody murder about this law, claiming it will infringe on their freedom of speech, and the president has already announced that he’ll veto it.
After all, saying that people deserve to go to hell isn’t the same as loading a gun and trying to send them there. We all know that.
So how come it doesn’t feel all that different?
True believers are free to say I’m evil, immoral, dirty, perverted and a sinner. When I say, “That hurts, and if you hit me while you’re saying it, you’ll go to jail for longer,” they start screaming that I’m infringing on their rights.
Right here in the River City, we’ve got our own homegrown scandal of this type. Some San Juan High School students were suspended for wearing T-shirts that said, among other things, “Sodomy is sin,” and citing an Old Testament scripture that prescribes the death penalty for homosexuality. The kids were protesting over other students being allowed to participate in Day of Silence, an annual event where participants do not speak to demonstrate the way so many classmates—including gays, lesbians, bisexuals and the transgendered—are intimidated into silence.
Somehow, a few students’ decision not to talk to make a point forced these “Christians” to wear T-shirts calling other people sinners. And gosh, did they ever talk. And wave signs. And protest at the school principal’s home and church. I suspect they wanted to make absolutely, positively sure that nobody could possibly miss their point: They don’t approve of gay people and neither does their god.
A certain recently deceased bloated-preacher charlatan would be proud. After all, he and his flock really, really believe it’s true. Trouble is, they’d never in a million years get away with wearing T-shirts that said “Jews must convert or go to hell.” They really believe that, too. Just ask ol’ Jer—oops, sorry, too late!
Christians—at least some brands—really believe that the Catholic Church is the harlot riding the wild beast in the book of Revelation (except for Jehovah’s Witnesses, who think the harlot is every religion except theirs). Would they get away with wearing shirts that said “Catholics are whores”?
You know God would want them to! Haven’t you ever read a Jack Chick tract—you know, those neat little comic books that some Christians leave for waitresses instead of real tips?
Funny how quickly the hateful intimidation in such “free” speech is noticeable when it’s directed at somebody other than GLBT people. Sort of like how Fred Phelps, the “God hates fags” preacher, was pretty much ignored by the mainstream press as he waved his awful signs at gay events. But when Phelps started protesting at places straight people go, why, everybody noticed just what a scary, threatening pain in the ass he could be.
He’ll be protesting at Falwell’s funeral, I hear. Of course, his whole shtick wouldn’t exist if Falwell hadn’t already proven how much attention and money you can get bad-mouthing gay people.
Have you heard the one about the 18-year-old lesbian whose Bible-believing mother told her she deserved to die for being gay?
That would be me.
I’m not sure if she really believed it then, nor do I have any idea if she believes it now. Frankly, I don’t want to know. There are enough people around—even in California, land of fruits and nuts—who believe it, strongly, to make a gay person feel pretty unsafe in the world.
Those who suggest that I lighten up about the hateful language directed toward me—that I should adopt a kindergarten “sticks and stones” attitude—often haven’t seen how quickly the words that will never hurt me are followed by sticks and stones of the real variety.
They might change their attitude if they’d ever seen how quickly kindly care can turn unnecessarily rough when homophobia enters the picture. For example, a surgical prep nurse once turned my arm into a pincushion after she deduced that the concerned and loving woman at my side was my partner, not my sister.
Look, I don’t care what people believe, Falwell included. But what they believe gets translated into action more than most people realize: jobs, housing, education—you name it. If there’s an opportunity to discriminate, some people will.
And some will take it even farther. Maybe they’ll be a little rougher with the IV than they would for a “regular” patient. Maybe they’ll justify a bit of intimidation. Maybe they’ll push someone down, or hit them.
Maybe they’ll kill them.
Gwen Araujo. Matthew Shepard. Brandon Teena.
Those are just the ones who have had movies made about them. The full list is much longer than most people comprehend. And Falwell didn’t tell anyone to kill them. He certainly didn’t approve.
But he didn’t do anything to stop it, either, and every time he blamed “the gays” for something, from 9/11 to hurricanes; every time he said we were ruining the country; every time he said we were destroying people’s families; he made it just a little easier for some thug to justify violence.
So no, I’m not going to be civil. Civility is, all too often, the grease that oils the killing machines.
I’m going dancing.